Sandhurst Resevior to Bendigo Railway Station
Definitely a cheerful buzz around the camp this morning as we pack our gear and get ready for a nice stroll into Bendigo – our final destination the railway station.
There is still plenty to see as we continue following a brick and stone section of the channel. Wild flowers are everywhere with some unusual activity brought to light when we spy a wasp capturing a bee amidst the beautiful Heath bush.
We take a break at Diamond Hill and can only imagine what it looked like long ago with the top of the hill made up of exposed bright white quartz glittering in the sun like a giant diamond. All the quartz has now been crushed to extract the gold within leaving only a large open crater devoid of character.
Diamond Hill – now a crater
We continue through parklands and bush with one last section of the Gold Dust wattle before entering suburbia to pass heritage listed homes and buildings. It is not too long before we reach the railway station and it’s a moment mixed with satisfaction, happiness and a touch of melancholy as we all begin heading off our separate ways.
The Goldfields Track has been fantastic with something new to discover every day, some challenging sections, incredible views, fascinating relics of the past and the wild flowers were beautiful, diverse, some absolutely stunning.
7 1/2 walkers
Sutton Grange Road to Sandhurst Reservoir
Our last long day on the track and apart from a couple of hills the track follows the Coliban Main Channel heading slowly downhill – very luxurious.
The Coliban Water System includes over 20 reservoirs and more than 500km of open channels is an amazing engineering feat of those involved. Building started in the late 1860’s with water first flowing in 1877 to Bendigo and provided a necessary constant water supply.
Today we follow the main channel and discover some interesting sculpturing, native plants, a red bellied black snake makes and appearance as well as a Shingleback lizard. It really is a great day of walking going through rich farmlands lovely and green from recent rains then back through native bushland with some stunning flowers to add to my collection of photos.
The channel takes the ‘low road’ through the hills whilst we take the ‘high road’ traveling over them checking out the various tunnel entrances – some a little fancy and others roughly cut through hard granite or basalt rock. Many of the men who unsuccessfully mined for gold found themselves working on blasting out these tunnels. Sadly some died either as a direct result of the blasting or from the horrific injuries caused by the risky business of explosives back in the day.
Today is our hottest day on the track so far but happily we have good shade for the most of the afternoon, a channel to follow so no-one gets lost, plenty to look at with some unusual flowers and a pair of very cute galahs.
Back at camp we can smell the start of what will become a delicious roast dinner. Tonight we have two very interesting guests, who have walked the track every year for 7 years raising money for Lifeline and most importantly raising awareness for suicide prevention – an incredible effort. (Ballarat 2 Bendigo in tutu’s)
I am given some green p’s, did a really just pass my first walk leaders role? Its all a bit of fun and because I love walking I can’t wait to get on to my next planned hike – hopefully I’ll be able to improve on somethings. It’s a great night and I feel very fortunate to have had such seasoned hikers around me who helped so much along the way.
Calder Highway to Harcourt – Sutton Grange Road
I wake up this morning and I feel great with a new level of fitness ready to conquer the mountain.
It’s another beautiful day and it is good to warm up along a nice flat stretch of road before we start the climb. Clambering over a stile and through an easement with paddocks either side signifies the start of the steady zigzagging track heading forever upwards.
At times the trail is quite challenging having to be very careful that we have a good foothold before moving on. We are told to keep a ‘weather eye’ out for the GT posts but there are some very low branch hazards as well. We are a great walking group and wait to warn or help others get through the tough bits.
We reach the top of the spur for a short break, water and to drink in the views, a wonderful feeling but there is still some climbing to do.
Some magnificent granite tors tower above us some with very unusual shapes that at times resemble animals with some imagination required.
Finally we reach the ridge line and although we don’t go to the absolute top we are greeted with views over towards Bendigo – our final destination.
What goes up must come down and we begin descending the mountain slowly to enjoy the views before they slip away. I’m walking next to Shane with two following us and we come to a fork in the road that is a little dubious. The well worn track to the right looks like the way to go but the arrow is slanted left toward a very lightly trod path. We walk a little way down the well worn path but see further on another GT marker on the path less travelled so circle back to go that way with the two behind confirming that it’s right. We walk around 100 metres and get a good view of the path before us and it is then I realise something has gone wrong. There are 10 of us on the track today and 6 of them should be right here in front of me. There is not even a sign they have been through. We walk a further 50metres to see if we can just see them in the valley below and there they are totally oblivious to the fact they are off track. Thank goodness for mobile phones. I am very happy to see them all and as we decend further our paths almost meet. It is also where the track meets the Coliban Channel so logically both groups can follow it, albeit on different sides, to where the cars are parked. Thankfully this little exercise was close to the end and no real drama occurred.
Pennyweight Flat Children’s Cemetery to Old Calder Highway
It’s a sober start to the morning at the Pennyweight Flat Children’s Cemetery as it is here many children and babies of the gold rush families are buried. Poor water supplies, lack of hygiene and disease brought on the early deaths and they were buried here without fear of the site being disturbed as the land was deemed worthless – a pennyweight being the smallest amount of gold you could get paid for.
It is a beautiful day and with the sun low in the sky it shines thorough the trees lighting up the mistletoe hanging down. The colours are intensified with greens, reds and golds almost glowing like colourful chandeliers becoming a beautiful tree assassin.
An interesting sideline story to the subject was told around the camp fire in the afternoon with a man who successfully applied for a gun license for the purpose of studying mistletoe and apparently there are 17 varieties found so far.
The Garfield Wheel is another interesting artefact from the gold rush era used to crush quartz making such a deafening noise it could be heard up to 5kms away.
We make an effort to find the men ants of Welsh Town as it is described as just a short walk from the main trail but in the end are just happy to find the slate quarry used for the buildings.
There are some tough declines through some extensive pine forest, so at least it smells good as we carefully pick our best footholds, and then all too soon we are facing a tough incline. All this brings great rewards with views over to Mt Alexander which we shall our challenging walk tomorrow.
Vaughan Springs to Castlemaine
Our timing today is not good – I mean really bad. On the other hand officially this is the best native flower day to date, just simply spectacular.
It all started around the fire yesterday afternoon when a certain rumour spread around the camp, we do not know who or how this started but it was suggested as it is only a 3 kilometres from Vaughan Springs back to our camp site, which is on the track, we could get up early, which is extra early with daylight savings, walk from the springs back to camp whilst breakfast would be cooked for us – less than an hour and then continue on. Great plan! On the way, it is ironic, that we see so many of the nicknamed Egg and Bacon shrub since that is on our breakfast menu for this morning.
After walking for an hour I am thinking it must be a very slow track today and takes us another half before we reach camp, starving hungry woofing into bacon and eggs we analyse what went wrong. It is then we discover that we have actually walked 6 kilometres and despite making the chefs upset because we should have been back 30 minutes earlier, I am very pleased – only 13 clicks to go!
Meandering through the bush we are quite relaxed and spend some time at the ruins of the old battery, which crushed thousands of tonnes of quartz in its day.
We meet up with many others using the track today, cyclists and other walkers which is great to see.
We then get to the section of native flora and we are just amazed by the variety and amount of flowers. Donkey Orchids are very prolific along with waxed lipped orchids, lady finger orchids and many others.
Donkey Eared Orchid
Wax Lipped Orchid
An echidna makes an appearance in the old race we are walking beside very intent on digging into the earth, either looking
for food or hiding from us.
Not long after that little added extra we find a sign that causes some concern – 10km to Castlemaine but our estimations say 3km left to go. Our pick up drivers are in place so I ring just in case and we all press on at a more urgent pace. Thank goodness the sign is wrong but even with that our eta was out by an hour!
Sawpit Gully Road to Vaughan Springs
I have decided to officially call today Wattle Day as we are inundated with them. The pathway is lined with them. Australian wattle, Gold-dust wattle, Rough wattle and at least one other type that I will need to research. They come in brilliant yellow, soft gold or pale yellow fluffy balls and light up the bush as we trek on by.
We do get some very good views of Mount Franklin and some of our crew go for a sight seeing trip telling me it’s worth the drive.
Ruins are also on our walk today with the most in tact hut on the track with a chimney and walls still standing.
The track follows along side some major erosion caused by the mining and just as we are coming down from seeing the worst of the damage I spy an echidna walking up an embankment opposite us and close enough to enjoy watching him wave his snout in the air.
Our walk is coming close to an end as we see the Loddon River that meanders through Vaughan Springs and I see the fjord thinking we may have to get our boots off to cross it, happily there is also a bridge. A big sigh of relief.
The silliest thing I did when we got to the park was to go down the slide, I got up so much speed that I was airborne at the end having to run to keep myself on my feet
To finish off the day I fill a bottle with water from the springs and although it does have a slight sulphur odour it is not too unpleasant and has a fizzy feel to it when you drink it. No other takers for the spring water.
Daylesford, Twin Bridges to Sawpit Gully Road
We go down into the gully and we go up onto the ridge line, we go down into the gully and we go up onto the ridge line x 10. It really is a challenging day as we start off following Sailors Creek and then Spring Creek. The scenery is lovely whether we are looking down from a great heights or striding along beside the creek – our hard slog is rewarded at every rise and fall.
We see ruins of bridges, homes and mines, with gold being scarce tens of thousands of miners simply upped stumps and left. Some areas are badly scarred by erosion but, for the most part, native plants are slowly reclaiming the mining remnants scattered across the landscape, eventually all will be gone with only the stories to be told and history to be remembered.
This section has also provided us with some interesting fauna as flowers begin to open up with the warmer weather such a stark contrast to the more sedate colours of the bush.
I spot an echidna who is climbing up the embankment next to us – a very healthy full grown adult who warily hesitates as we quietly walk on by.
It is a relief to reach the cars and head to Fryerstown School which will be our home for the next 6 nights.